Tag Archives: adventure path

Mummy’s Mask Chapter 2, Empty Graves – First Session

First Session (15 page pdf) “Auction of Souls” – We are happily selling off our tomb raiding loot when it goes all Walking Dead in the city of Wati.  We save some locals and then start trying to quell the problem.

The auction starts out as an exercise in whipping up the interest of buyers.  Everyone tries to talk the attendees into bidding on our lots. My favorite was the Andorens who were looking for weapons; we had a lot with weapons and a chariot together, but they weren’t interested in the chariot.  But Khaled, knowing Andorens are all about emancipating slaves, spun a tale about Harrieteb Ptubman and her Underground Chariotway in ancient Osirion that helped slaves escape from the pharaohs and they bought it (and the lot!).

amadjawet

Amadjawet the Hot Mummy

And then the zombies attack!  (After we get paid, luckily).  We beat back the first wave but then see a whole bunch of zombie hands coming down the street (from the display of severed thief hands in the public square).  When Usif and Denat go into the kitchen to find something to burn them with they’re beset by what we all agreed was a curiously hot mummy.

We defend the inn for a while until it’s clear it won’t hold up forever; we exfil the noncoms across the roof and withdraw.  We escort them to the Temple of Pharasma where it’s safe.  We get requisitioned to go out as an anti-undead strike force, so we do.

balthemm

Balthemm

We find various targets of opportunity.  We help a priestess named Balthemm by the necropolis wall; she had character art and a hypno-shield and everything so we hope she recurs.  Some of the events are combats, others are irate crowds, friendly fire from others fighting the undead, etc.

Then we find out that Ptemenib the Pharasmin priestess has been nabbed by the Silver Chain, both my thieves’ guild’s enemy but who are also involved in this necromancy business.  But at the same time some rezzed judge is popping out eyeballs of the townsfolk on a murder crusade.  So, we gotta go deal with that… Next time!

P.S. This is what the Internet gives you when you Google “hot mummies”…

Hot Mummies

Hot Mummies

Mummy’s Mask Chapter 1 Retrospective

Well, we’ve finished our first chapter of Paizo’s Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path using the Dungeon World rules!   It’s going very well.

The DW rules are super simple but are very interesting in that they are player driven (the players make all the rolls) and in that they allow for more than just success and failure, but partial success/success at a cost. This has resulted in meaningful decisionmaking in combat – ironically much more meaningful than in Pathfinder, which despite all the options is usually reduced to “who do I unload my full attack on… roll roll roll.” Hit points and damage don’t go up much at all with level so single rolls plus more normative hp = very fast action.

While Dungeon World purists might scoff at the notion of using a written adventure with DW (no really, some do) – we like it.  An adventure, and a defined game world like Golarion, keeps the factor of exploration in the game.  Without that, when you’re just “making it all up as you go” – IMO it degenerates quickly into wish fulfillment and to be honest, most peoples’ off the cuff ideas a) aren’t that good and b) get repetitive quick.  Mummy’s Mask is a good one – it’s “tombs are here, want to explore them?” and then a metaplot that unfolds as other folks take actions.  If I want to directly control what happens with the game world, I’ll be the GM, thanks.

And the GM is doing a great job of melding the concept of Fronts (player initiated action) with the adventure.  So the adventure as written was apparently with the Scorched Hand as primary opponents and the Forgotten Pharaoh stuff just color and “stuff the bad guys want.”  But given our backstories and interests, instead we became fast friends with the Hand – partially through Khaled wanting to seduce Velriana, but also because there’s actually no reason given as to why you should oppose them.  “They want to go explore a temple sacred to their faith!  And she’s kind of a bitch!” Uh, OK.  My response was “sure, we’ll help you!” It wasn’t until we learned the Forgotten Pharaoh stuff was in there did we even have a reason to be interested in the Erudite Eye.  And then it was only because Murdus has declared himself the new incarnation of the Fiend Pharaoh, and that he has a twin sister who also thinks that.  So Hetshepsut his sister became the antagonist instead.  It feelsd perfectly organic and tied to our characters, while having plenty of backing material to provide interesting NPCs, locations, encounters, etc.

The net effect is that we finished Book 1 in 5 sessions rather than the 6 or so it normally takes in Pathfinder – but also nearly half the action in each session was self-generated; not out of the adventure at all.  And the session summaries are longer, because there’s more interesting stuff happening and less math (which tends to get left out of the summaries).

The only problem is that the pace of leveling was too fast.  In Dungeon World you get to level 10 and then that’s it – it’s built around weird old AD&D 1e tropes, so you retire your character or do bizarre “you forgot your powers” dual-classing or whatnot. That’s not exactly congruent with a long story campaign modern style.  So once we got to about level 4-5 just in book 1, we discussed the problem and Paul our GM said “OK, just double the XP needed to level.”  That seems to have put us on a good trajectory, though we do have 5 more chapters to go so we’ll see.

The lack of rules texture hasn’t been a problem yet, mainly because we all have cool Moves, so the limited set of core Moves doesn’t bother us (and the fact that since it’s fiction-first, you don’t have to be worrying about whether there’s a Move for something, you just have good ideas and go with them, and it’s the GM’s job to tell you if you need to roll something or not). It does sometimes get hard to figure out more interesting “partial success” options for the 7-9 rolls especially because they happen a lot (on 2d6 that’s the average result) – seems like a good opportunity to sell us some tables or a card deck or something!  “My third partial on a Volley in a roll… Oh I don’t know let’s liven it up with a random option!”

So far, it’s two thumbs up for the combination!  I think the AP might be a little… trying… under the full-crunch ruleset. But with the DW rules, it’s moving at a great pace and it’s a lot easier to hit our desired mix of fight/talk/explore when you’re not constrained to invest 2+ hours every time there’s a fight.

So we’re happily rolling forward into Chapter 2.  I’ll keep you all updated!  Enjoy the summaries…

Mummy’s Mask Chapter 1, The Half-Dead City – Fifth Session

hetshepsut

Hetshepsut

Fifth Session (16 page pdf) “Race for the Erudite Eye” – Velriana lies abed poisoned and Khaled vows revenge as Murdus races to get to the Erudite Eye before his sister does so he can claim the dead pharoah’s blessing. But first we have to work our way through the Fiend Folio… Before the climactic showdown!

First I go trade in our proceeds from the grey-market selloff of our tomb goods for a brace of healing potions and similar.  And I go buy a rapier, explaining to the shopkeeper that “I need to kill a man.”

We make our way to the Erudite Eye, and are ambushed by Hetshepsut’s well-oiled henchmen along the way. When we finally get to the tomb Usif uses a guiding flame spell so that we can skip the side rooms and follow in their tracks.  We fight through some trash mobs (including caryatid columns) deeper into the complex.  I leave doors re-locked behind us to prevent their easy escape.

We find evidence that some necromancer got here before any of us and got the mask and staff, or similar items, with the spirit of Hakotep, the guy who killed the Fiend Pharoah.  That’s depressing as that’s what we’re looking for.  But then we come across Hetshepsut, her cold lizard (the bane of Usif’s life), Azaz, and Khelru. Luckily Usif used a ritual-friendly room we’d come across to summon a fire elemental!

We engage with them and I see my quarry Azaz.  But simple death, that’s too good for a traitor.  Read on and find out who lives and who dies (it’s about fifty-fifty) in the final confrontation.

 

Mummy’s Mask Chapter 1, The Half-Dead City – Fourth Session

velrianahypaxes

Velriana

Fourth Session (17 page pdf) “Raid on Gaunt Cadaver” – The group goes to kill a rogue necromancer and his Frankenstein monster. Then they conduct a super ghetto “Ocean’s 11” sting on the church of Pharasma.  Then their mass sexytime is interrupted by Murdus’ sister!

First we meet some freaks on the streets of the necropolis who are wearing funerary masks.  They tell us they are “funerary mask enthusiasts” and are called the Forgotten Pharoahs.  Murdus declares “they’re coming right at me!” and kills them with basically no provocation.  But we back his story.

Our raid on Gaunt Cadaver’s place goes well – we insert in over the roof and discover he has an irate undead and/or flesh golem trapped in the courtyard.  So we let it into the villa and it does a lot of our killing for us.  We have to face the dark folk necromancer but since they can only see in the dark I “hide in light” and give him a good backstabbing. Mistress Unwrapped Harmony is very thankful and gives us gold funerary cones and crappy food.

Then it’s a bit more Keystone Kops than Ocean’s 11 as we break into the temple.  Denat tries to start a street party as a distraction and fails twice, getting chased off the first time and fined by the local guards the second. I get into the temple’s storage room with the room assignment chits with that stupid doru div Imanish providing cover but he’s not doing well either, his illusions and suggestions aren’t going over big.

But finally the other party members, wearing Forgotten Pharoah getups, cause a commotion and lead the guards on a merry chase around the temple. This distracts the guards interrogating our illusionary guard stand-in and they run off.  To cover it up I smear some mumia (mummy drugs, don’t ask) on the unconscious real guard’s upper lip and skedaddle, having switched the tokens.  Ideally they’ll think he’s acting weird because he was stoned out of his gourd.

Khaled finally hooks up with Velriana the Taldan noblewoman.  Murdus makes do with her “daddy issues” bodyguard and Denat somehow manages to seduce an entire adventuring band.  Usif tries to go do something useful but he gets caught by Murdus’ evil sister Hetshepsut, who then comes and has her Cupid-dressed goons kick down our inn doors. We murder them and get set to move on to her when she summons some crazy dark whirlwind demon thing that slurps people up like milkshakes and seems mostly invincible. We only get our bacon saved by some clerical visions and summoning of ki-rin (the tornado demons’ natural enemy).

But meantime, the sorcerer Azaz turns out to be a traitor! He’s a member of the Scorched Hand, mostly notable for having a crush on Khelru that makes him easy to manipulate.  But he sends his greensting scorpion familiar to sting Velriana!  I kill it but she’s poisoned; I go for him but he charms Khelru and escapes with Hetshepsut. Now we need to beat them to the Erudite Eye – and murder them all of course.

Wrath of the Righteous Retrospective

Well, we finished our Wrath of the Righteous campaign successfully.  You can read the many, many session summaries and weep in fear at our hellacious character builds at the link.  “Yeah, I’m level 16 with 10 mythic tiers, no big deal.”

Overall we enjoyed this AP, but it was deeply flawed in a number of ways.  It was ambitious, but its reach exceeded its grasp.

The Characters

I enjoyed my PC, Antonius.  I tied him into a Dave Gross novel even, as being a ward of Count Varian Jeggare gained after the Iron Mountain massacre in Tien Xia.  Having been brought up some in Cheliax he was a nice foil to the rest of the party’s expectations.   I was pro-tiefling (because of Uncle Jeggare’s man Radovan) and, true to a LG alignment, saw LE devils and CG whatnots with equivalent amounts of distaste. So some of the goody-goodys looked on his proud red and black Chelish garb with suspicion. As a monk/paladin of Irori he was different and I tried to balance the “lack of attachment” Irori thing with, you  know, Pathfinder, gotta have some loot to play.  I also gave a try playing him as a gay character, but all the major NPCs were chicks in this AP!  So I was largely thwarted there.  I tried to start something up with some guy’s brother we found who had been turned to a statue and we turned him back but then it was “back to the Abyss to kill demons” and the task at hand, realistically, was always more pressing than love, so really no romantic attachments were made by any of the PCs in this AP.  I did pull off the “you are already dead” Fist of the North Star move once in a while, which made me happy.

The other PCs were all fun. Our aasimar sorceress was our war leader since the mini-ruleset about wars was all about Charisma, so we called her “Khaleesi” much to Tim’s chagrin. Patrick was Shawanda the paladin (modeled on the iconic paladin), who paladinned up the paladin. Matt was Trystan the archer, who built his own religion. Bruce (Skyping in) was Tabregon the oracle, who largely healed and boasted about how much he could carry.  Chris’ cleric Tsuguri was of some good Tien moon and insanity god, so that was nice and different.

The Story

The story was decent.  A bit railroady.  We went to interesting places and saw interesting demons and killed them, which definitely lives up to what it says on the tin.  It did get a bit repetitive – one fire, bug, and ichor soaked place after another loses its punch with repetition.

The initial NPCs were supposed to be interesting throughout the entire campaign.  They weren’t.  We picked out other NPCs we liked more, like Uziel our repentant tiefling.  Our GM was a good sport about pivoting to them instead of the goons we were “supposed to” care about. This happened in Jade Regent too.  “Here’s people you should care about, instead of the more interesting people you meet” is crap design and they need to quit it. I mean, a GM should just call the audible but they can feel constrained from doing that when the adventure keeps trotting someone out because it “might be important” that it’s them… They should explicitly say “you can sub in other NPCs into whatever weird relationship or plot minigame we’ve built into this.”

There were too many high level NPCs for us to pal around with really.  Our poor GM – he’s trying to run a crapload of super high power bad guys, and besides our party we end up having a variety of angels and a Runelord and such along with us. So none of them really get their due.  We converted a Runelord to good!  And then it was just kinda like “we have a pet Runelord now.”  “Hey Alderpash you gonna get the lead out and fireball someone or just sit on your ass another round?!?” There were so many rules options it was too much to keep up with just for ourselves and for the primary bad guy, let along a bunch of other high-level-plus-epic-tier guys.  It devalued them.

But we kept interested in the story, in fact later on in the AP the GM was kinda dispirited at how much we were rolling over the fights and wanted to know if we wanted to continue the AP or not.  We said yes – by this time the idea of more grindy fights was not attractive, but gunning through the encounters to get to the story points was interesting.

Challenge Level

The AP was flat underpowered.  By a large margin.  Some of this is the mythic rules (coming next) but frankly I’m not sure we needed the mythic tiers to rock this AP. The GM upped enemies and added stuff and had bunches of singleton enemies band together.  We still one-rounded a lot of stuff.

This was partly good and partly bad.  On the one hand, when we one-rounded a mythic two-headed linnorm, I felt like “boo – that should have been more epic.” But when confronted with another fight with bugs with 1000 hp apiece, I couldn’t get those combats over with fast enough.

The Mythic Rules

The mythic rules are a innovative ruleset from Paizo.  They’re not just retreading 3.5 content, they are continuously exploring the design space and coming up with more options.

The mythic rules, as written, are 50% on target.  They’re billed as “not just more plusses – they’re truly myth and legend level powers.” And that’s true – sometimes.  The story they tell about the mythic rules is compelling, its execution slightly less so, and its use in this AP much less so.

My most bad ass power was Imprinting Hand. Also very thematic as an Irori worshipper.  I could touch someone and gain knowledge about them.  The GM loved this too, as he could dump the 1 page of AP backstory on me in the 30 seconds before we ripped whatever it was asunder for good. That’s a mythic power.

For every one of those, there’s a “double your plusses” power.  Mythic Power Attack, et al.  Those weren’t fun, they were just power inflation. Various others made us immune to something – we liked those, though they frustrated the GM.  He’d do something whizbang to us and we’d say “Oh, I’m unaffected…” We started referring to these at the table as our “cheating bonus.”  “The room fills with poison gas!  Make a DC 30 Fort save!” “I’m not affected.  You know, cheating bonus.” The GM would just sigh and move on.

Then the other powers – which were fun but also the real source of mass power – were the ones giving us extra actions.  Lots of extra actions.  That’s how we’d really kill stuff.  I could double move then full attack then get an extra attack.

The mythic rules as written are OK.  But Wrath of the Righteous did not make the best use of them.

First of all – mythic enemies are supposed to be legendary enemies. We ended up fighting mythic bugs.  Not bug-men named the King of Biting Ants or whatever – just big locusts they gave mythic tiers to.  Super stupid.

Second – they did not use mythic flaws at all.  I was hoping we’d have a lot of fights that required smarts.  You know, a giant minotaur we just can’t hurt until we figure out he’s only vulnerable to mistletoe sprigs, that kind of stuff.  That’s covered in the mythic rules.  Nope!  Not a single damn opponent had those.  The answer was always, always, “just pour on more hit points worth of damage.”  That’s extremely unfortunate and I don’t understand the thinking there.  I know the Paizo designers are smarter than that.  Is it “well some players are dumb and if they can’t just hack their way through everything they’ll get TPKed and/or frustrated and that’s bad for sales?”  I don’t know, but it made mythic combat – which should allegedly be more interesting that just pure high-level combat – even more predictable and “mash the buttons till it dies.”  Well, this AP buyer would like to request some that require two brain cells to rub together and not just DPS.

Conclusion

I don’t want to say this AP was bad – but it kinda broke us of Pathfinder, to be honest.  One of the reasons we went with Dungeon World for our next campaign was that we were looking for other options – 5e, Savage Worlds, DW – because after this festival of rules and math, when we looked at new APs and considered launching into one, we (and more importantly, the GM) were like – “Fuck this, I don’t want to do this again.”

It’s not just the mythic rules’ fault, we’ve been playing Pathfinder a long time and with every year there’s another 50 lbs. of rules options. It gets tiring.  I remember our last D&D 3.5e campaign before we left 3.5e behind for good, we were so jaded we were all playing super weird races and classes trying to recapture that elusive high – “chasing the dragon” in a very real sense. We had to take a break.

I’m still running a Pathfinder campaign – that I’ve deliberately kept down to 8th level over like 5 years because I have been doing this long enough I can see when the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

We’re still using Paizo APs because they generally rock especially when divorced from the weight of the rules.  Will we go back to Pathfinder?  Maybe at some point, hard to say right now.

So I’m not saying don’t play Wrath of the Righteous – but I am saying know what you’re getting into.  If you love the rules and tactics, you’ll love it.  If you don’t, but want to put a lot of work into revamping it, you’ll probably love it too – it has a good chassis that if a GM were to significantly alter it (reduce number but add weight/complexity of… everything) it’d make a rollicking good story. But running it as-is, even with minor mods, it’s a mixed bag.

Mummy’s Mask Chapter 1, The Half-Dead City – Third Session

unwrappedharmony

Unwrapped Harmony

Third Session (18 page pdf) “House of Pentheru” – First, Khaled makes the group some new friends.  Then it’s into a ruined house, where everyone nearly loses their head.  Then Murdus makes us another friend – an even more unsavory one.

First, Khaled gets a solo scene as he makes friends with some dark folk and their leader. Mistress Unwrapped Harmony, whose name becomes “Unchained Melody” in my head .1 seconds after the DM says it, has some knowledge of the necropolis and fills me in on a bunch of power groups we didn’t even know existed.  She offers us intel and money to go whack a rogue dark folk necromancer.  Kill a monster *and* get paid for it?  That’s like free money! I agree happily.

Then we go into the ruins of the House of Pentheru and loot it.  There’s a bunch of head-themed problems – vargouilles, screaming skulls, et al. Oh, and an adherer – this adventure is definitely in love with the AD&D 1e Fiend Folio, there’s a lot of critters from it.

Finally we confront a disembodied voice, which I want to kill but Murdus insists is the Pharasmin priestess’ little invisible psychopomp bird – until it’s revealed to be this bad boy…
imanishImanish, a doru div!  It’s an evil disembodied floating head with bestial visage and six horns, invisible most of the time, and it wants secrets.  In an unsettling move, Murdus makes friends with it and promises it many secrets to come along with us.

As we leave the necropolis, we come across our allies the Scorched Hand and concoct a plan for a little B&E in the temple to Pharasma to make sure we get a crack at the Temple of the Erudite Eye…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Seventh Session

ilizmagorti

Ilizmagorti

Seventh Session (10 page pdf) – “Ilizmagorti” – The home of the Red Mantis assassins! But fear turns quickly to drinking. And safaris! Shimye-Magalla commands her faithful to recover a holy artifact…

So Ilizmagorti is the not so secret HQ of the Red Mantis assassin cult. So “don’t jack with the locals” is the order of the day.  This puts a bit of the fear into the PCs but then they have a good time…

Ilizmagorti is detailed in Cities of Golarion, and they have a sidebar with all these local booze concoctions.  I buy these books to use every scrap of local color, so I make the navigator Tarek more interesting by him being a closet epicurean who knows all the best places to eat and drink on the island.  The PCs happily take his lead and I get to roll off all the various boozes of the island… From the Rusty Cutlass to the Dark and Stormy to the Whore’s Breakfast, they drink them all.

And in an entertaining cameo, when Sindawe goes to the Quarterdeck, a ship’s captain-only tavern, he shares info and shoots the shit with Captain Harrigan, the villain of the first part of the Skull & Shackles adventure path.

But then, a dream… Many of the crew share allegiance of some sort or another to Desna, Gozreh, or the janiform combo of the two, Shimye-Magalla, who is worshipped down in these parts. She comes to them and encourages them to retrieve a holy artifact!

They ask around and find out that Captain Jared “Red Skewer” Tarin and his crew are holed up at their base on the island with the loot. And that a half dozen other pirate ships are lurking nearby because they all want his score for themselves.

Wogan asks, “What’s on the land side?”

“Apes. Man eating plants. Folks building ice factories. It would be daring but certainly less awful than the sea wall.”

Note the Mosquito Coast reference?  Paul Theroux?  Read a book!!!

Anyway so safaris to see dinosaurs aren’t uncommon here, so they book one as cover and head out into the bush with the plans of ascending Tarin’s Crown…